In a previous post, I talked about how pregnancy and giving birth can impact the core and pelvic floor. As a result, postpartum bodies need to slowly rebuild the strength of the core and pelvic floor prior to engaging in higher intensity exercises. I often hear from the postpartum clients I coach that they feel so weak in their abdominals - to the point where it's hard for them to stay standing for long periods of time. For this reason, exercises that are high-impact such as jumping, running, or any other dynamic movements can be uncomfortable, potentially lead to injury and increase the degree of pelvic organ prolapse or diastisis recti. Read more about which exercises are safe and unsafe to do postpartum here.
In this post, I'll be teaching you the first two levels of seven progressions in Rebuilding the Core. I always let my clients know that the first two levels will not really feel like "work". They may not feel challenging, but they are important in rebuilding the neuromuscular connection so that your brain can remember how to activate your transverse abdominis - the deep layer of muscles that help to keep your pelvis and spine stable.
Lower Abdominal #1
In this exercise, you'll want to lie on your back on a mat with your knees bent. As you inhale for a count of four, let your belly fill. As you finish your four-count exhale, start to gently draw your belly button in towards your spine and lift the pelvic floor towards your sternum (similar to a kegel). Try to hold that activation and lifting for about 10 seconds. Completely rest for 10 seconds, and then repeat 10 more times. Notice in the video how the activation is very subtle, sometimes not visible to the naked eye. This may be challenging to hold for 10 seconds the first time, but with subsequent practice, you'll learn how to fire these muscles and find that you can do this activation when sitting in a chair, standing in line, and during exercise.
Lower Abdominal #2
For Level 2, you will be challenging your ability to hold and activate the TVA while adding some movement. In this exercise, you'll start again on your back with your knees bent. Begin with an inhale. As you exhale, gently draw your belly button in towards your spine and lift the pelvic floor towards your sternum - the exact movement you learned in Level 1. Holding that activation - and remembering to breathe! - slow slide one heel away from your body along the mat and slowly return your heel back towards your body. The distance that you can slide your heel is dependent on your ability to keep the TVA activated and not let your lower back arch (or extend) off the mat). Repeat 10 reps per leg, rest, and repeat 10 reps on the other leg.
I recommend working on these two levels for a solid 2-3 weeks, if you are consistent. You don't have to perform these exercises every day, but if you can manage to find time to do these exercise 3-4 days a week, you'll be doing just fine! These are exercises that you can start doing as early as 4 weeks postpartum. But again, always a good idea to meet with a pelvic floor physical therapist prior to exercising to assess your level of pelvic organ prolapse and diastisis recti. If you have any questions about these exercises, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!